The Scottish Recorder Orchestra

Residential weekend, October 2006

In October 2006 The Scottish Recorder Orchestra held a residential weekend at Gartmore House situated in the surrounding hills of Aberfoyle. As well as our renowned Conductor and MD, Eileen Silcocks, we were pleased to welcome Dietrich Schnabel as a visiting maestro. We had enjoyed playing his composition Feuer und Eis last year and were keen (and a little nervous) to play more of his works. Dietrich Schnabel was born in Württemberg, Germany into a musical family. He is an accomplished pianist and studied music in Cologne. He became an active participant in recorder ensemble playing as well as leading and conducting choral societies. Since 1996 he has been a freelance conductor and composer working with the Dortmund Recorder Consort.

Dietrich conducting No time was wasted; the weekend started off with a Friday evening session playing Lyndon Hilling's Midsummer Meadow Suite that includes a Battle, a dripping well and a carnival. Eileen chose this piece as an exercise in contrasting moods full of sound effects and once we get it together it will sound good.

On Saturday morning Dietrich introduced us to The Little Musician by Ares. We were lulled into a false sense of relaxation by the simplicity of the notes, but each section of the orchestra was very firmly dissected and rehearsed every conceivable subtlety and technical nuance possible, Dietrich applauding the players with 'That was nearly good!' Although both conductors obviously were united in their aims for the sound of the orchestra their approach was rather different and we found it interesting and rewarding to respond to both. There was no slacking for the whole weekend.

Eileen conducting The Saturday continued with Gabrieli's Battaglia, a piece of music that transcribes so well for recorders and as a contrast Improvisations on a Souling Song by Colin Hand. This piece starts with a Tema, continues with three Variations and ends with a Fugue. Variation three had us waltzing and oompahing with a will.

After lunch, Eileen introduced us to Xicochi xicochi conetzintle by Gaspar Fernandez set for two tenors, Bass, Gt. bass and Contra-a wonderful sound.

After dinner we resumed with Dietrich and his composition 7x7 a piece with seven parts, seven movements, seven time signatures and seven moods; giocoso, andante, alla marcia, Valzer burlesco and pesante energio. We all fell under the charm and energy of both the music and the composer/conductor.

Some stalwarts continued the evening with fun, games and a little glass or two. Well we had to face THE QUIZ! This has become a tradition and this time the teams had to face rounds including General Knowledge questions about cats and space shuttles, a musical Beginning and Endings and one on body parts, the latter causing some mild ribaldry. The final challenge was to design a car sticker for recorder players. This produced some really inventive and hilarious results such as "Don't mess with my Tutti" and "Overtaking allowed- I play Contra".

Sunday, pencils at the ready, we ran through pieces that we had played earlier annotating our music with the words of wisdom from on high that will hopefully improve our performance. The weekend was a great success thanks to Eileen and Dietrich who taught us so much in the way of technique and encouraged us to play through the notes to the heart of the music. Roll on next year.

Jean Macdonald

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